Nanotheranostics 2017; 1(4):358-368. doi:10.7150/ntno.21384 This issue


Encapsulation of Inorganic Nanomaterials inside Virus-Based Nanoparticles for Bioimaging

Wenjing Zhang1, 2*, Chengchen Xu1, 3*, Gen-Quan Yin3, Xian-En Zhang4, Qiangbin Wang5✉, Feng Li1✉

1. State Key Laboratory of Virology, Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, 430071, China;
2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China;
3. Guangzhou Women and Children's Medical Center, Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou, 510623, China;
4. National Laboratory of Biomacromolecules, CAS Center for Excellence in Biomacromolecules, Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100101, China;
5. CAS Key Laboratory of Nano-Bio Interfaces, Division of Nanobiomedicine and i-Lab, Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Suzhou, 215123, China.
* These authors contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
Zhang W, Xu C, Yin GQ, Zhang XE, Wang Q, Li F. Encapsulation of Inorganic Nanomaterials inside Virus-Based Nanoparticles for Bioimaging. Nanotheranostics 2017; 1(4):358-368. doi:10.7150/ntno.21384. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Virus-based nanoparticles (VNPs) can serve as containers for inorganic nanomaterials with excellent physical and chemical properties. Incorporation of nanomaterials inside the inner cavity of VNPs has opened up lots of possibilities for imaging applications in the field of biology and medicine. Encapsulation of inorganic nanoparticles (NPs) in VNPs can achieve the labeling of VNPs with nanoprobes and maintain the original outer surface features of VNPs at the same time. In return, VNPs enhance the stability and biocompatibility of the inorganic cargoes. This review briefly summarizes the current typical strategies to encapsulate inorganic nanomaterials in VNPs, i.e. mineralization and self-assembly, as well as the applications of these hybrid nanostructures in the field of bioimaging, including in vitro and in vivo fluorescence imaging, magnetic resonance imaging, and theranostics. Nanophotonic studies based on the VNP platform are also discussed. We anticipate that this field will continue to flourish, with new exciting opportunities stemming from advancements in the rational design of VNPs, the development of excellent inorganic nanomaterials, the integration of multiple functionalities, and the regulation of nano-bio interfacial interactions.

Keywords: virus-based nanoparticle, encapsulation, mineralization, self-assembly, bioimaging, theranostics.